Exclusive: India should treat the Asian Cup as the World Cup- Tim Cahill
Written by: Utsab Ghosh
The Aussie legend opened up on a number of topics as he shared his views on Indian Football, Jamshedpur and more.
Undoubtedly the biggest name in the Indian Super League (ISL) this season, Tim Cahill spread a spectacular wave across the country as he made his way to Jamshedpur this season. With vast experience of playing in countries such as, England, Australia, USA and China, the Everton and Australia legend is expected to be the player to watch for the Men of Steel this term, spearheading their attack for the games to come. However, as one of the most senior players in the squad, Cahill is also expected to lend his knowhow to the youngsters in the team and help them develop as a whole by taking up a leadership role in the dressing room.
After having an intense training session at the Tata Football Academy in the city, Cahill sat down with Khel Now's Jamshedpur correspondent Utsab Ghosh to indulge in an honest chat about his new club, his commitment to the TATA Group and all things football.
On being asked about his motivation to come to India at this point in his career he said, “The motivation was simple. When I was approached to come here, I saw this club’s vision and its long-term project to develop a football academy, to unearth raw talent from this city and other cities, while also at the same time helping in the growth of the community and the city."
"All of this added together made it quite an interesting project for me as at my age I consider it very important that my knowledge and experience of the game is passed on," he started.
“The main objective here for me is to help in making a better tomorrow for this club, for this city, as I feel that every day this club, the local young players here are getting better and better. So, for me, that I consider as winning, it’s a gradual process, but its one which I am totally committed to.”
Cahill is being touted as the biggest name in Indian football this season
The discussion then led to the new signing being quizzed about the preparations for the upcoming season of the ISL on which he said, “The training is going well. We are working on our positioning, our tactical setup and individual fitness. We have two difficult away games coming up, followed by one at home. So, we have to take one game at a time and make sure that we put in our best on the training ground before the season starts.”
“My job is to help the players prepare themselves mentally and physically before the season kicks-off, especifically the local young players in the squad. When the coach is not training us, I train them personally, talk with them and help them understand the dynamics of football," Cahill added.
Further questioned about his expectations, individually and collectively as a team from the upcoming campaign, after Jamshedpur finished fifth last term he said, “I think the team, the coaching staff, the players, the level of professionalism, the style of play, the training setup, all these things have improved quite significantly in the past few months."
"So, at the moment all these things give a positive vibe, but the biggest improvement for us as a team would be getting into the top four. Then this would be a successful season for us, he asserted.”
“We are aiming to have a consistent season and will try to finish in the top four not only this season, but in the upcoming seasons as well, as we want to improve ourselves every day in a gradual manner," he continued before adding, "Every other team in this league is talking about winning the league or getting into the top four, but we don’t want to talk about that at the moment. Rather, we would like to talk about how to improve ourselves individually and as a team.”
Then asked to be more specific about his "long-term" commitment to Jamshedpur he said, “When I agreed to come here it was not just for six months. I don’t need a contract to have a relationship with this club. My commitment here is to help in the growth of Indian football, whether it’s for the good of Indian Federation, or through the growth of this club.”
“Finally, my ultimate commitment was to this city, Jamshedpur. I have lived in some very big cities like New Jersey, Manchester, London. Shanghai, New York, Sydney. But, still my commitment was to come to a small city like Jamshedpur and to aid in the growth of it because I liked their vision, their objectives. My relationship with this club, with this city, is not based on contracts. I am here to help to build the future of Indian football. I want Jamshedpur FC to be pioneers in Indian football.”
Next, the conversation moved on to Indian football. Australia have been very successful in recent years and are one of Asia's regular representatives at the FIFA World Cup. So, Cahill was asked what India can learn from the Aussies? The midfielder's response was forthright. “Firstly, India should focus on the Asian Cup. You should start small, Australia first focused on the Asian Cup and in 2006, we finally qualified for the World Cup after a long absence from the competition," he began
"We grew a strong bond in being the best in smaller competitions. We dominated in the OFC Nations Cup. We put in good results in the AFC Asian Cup of 2007, 2011 and then we finally won it 2015. So, this was the rise of Australian football," explained Cahill.
He then proceeded to elaborate on India's path ahead. “India, following a similar pattern, should treat the upcoming Asian Cup as the World Cup. In the SAFF Cup, where they lost in the final to the Maldives, they should be ruthless in these small competitions, they should dominate them," he asseted.
"In the upcoming Asian Cup, they should try to go as far as possible and then see if they can even win it. Once India starts to dominate in these competitions, once they get that level of competitiveness, they should target to qualify for the FIFA World Cup."
"First take up small targets and then go for bigger ones. The ISL is surely playing a big part in the development of Indian football. Also, there’s so much talent here," he further added.
Cahill revealed that he has taken up a mentoring role at Jamshedpur (Courtesy- Jamshedpur FC)
Speaking about the talent present at Jamshedpur he said, "In the club we have Jerry and Soosairaj, who I wonder why aren’t in the Indian national team. I have been here only for one month, but I have already challenged Jerry and Soosairaj to claim their place in the national team to improve themselves even more."
"I want most of the Indian players of my club to represent the country as that’s our ultimate goal to produce talent which can play at the highest level, represent their nation. I am here to share my experience with the team, to share my knowledge which I have gained over the years.”
On to more global affairs. The Socceroos legend was asked to express his views on the inclusion of Video Assistant Referee (VAR) into the game to which he said,” The rules are the rules, whether it’s a human referee who is making the decisions or it’s through a video clip. The rules of the game don’t change. So, for me, as well as for the other players it’s not a big change and it doesn’t matter to the players a lot.”
It is almost inevitable that any conversation with Cahill will feature Everton. The Toffees have seen huge investment in recent years. Yet, they have struggled to produce results on the pitch. Reasoning for their woes the forward saiid, “I think they are struggling at the moment because of so many changes in their coaching staff in quick succession and with each manager comes a new philosophy," he opined.
"So, it’s very tough for the players to settle down, to form a strong connection. As a new coach also means changes in the squad and for a team to be successful, it’s very important that the chemistry of the team is strong. So, at the moment we can say they are in a period of transition.”
Having played both as a midfielder and a striker, Cahill was quizzed about the different challenges and demands involving the two roles to which he said, “While playing as a midfielder you need to do everything, you need to defend, you need to attack. It demands much more from you as a player from a physical point of view," he explained.
"Whereas while playing as a striker you need to be more aware. You need to close down defenders, bring your midfielders into the game, also have the strength and skill to hold the ball up when required and finally, when you get the chance you should be able finish. Personally, I enjoy playing in midfield more because I can make my runs from deep and I have scored a lot of goals that way. I also like playing as a #9, provided that I get good service so that I am able to score goals.”
To round off the chat the Australian was asked whether he likes Indian cuisine and if he has any particular favourite dish? ”I like Indian food and I eat it a lot. I like butter chicken, nan bread. My favourite would be chicken korma, but not too spicy. As a footballer you need to stay fit and agile. So, too much spicy food can take a toll on you," he sined off with a smile.